Monday, October 27, 2008

Samara, Russia Missionaries and the Jones Family from Sharbakti in Astana, Kazakhstan - 27 October 2008

What a busy and wonderful week this has been! Last weekend we found out that we would be getting 8 missionaries from the Samara Mission on Tuesday night for visa renewals. We went to the airport, (us and Mira) at 7:30 to meet them but it took them until 9:00 to get all of the information filled out for their Kazakh visas. After Mira checked all of their paperwork to make sure that it was correct, we then sent that information down to Almaty to an agency who extended their Kazakh visas (so they can come again in three months). Then they will send them back to the Russian Embassy in Astana for their Russian visa renewals. It was late by the time we got back to the apartment.Elder Dalley, Elder Holbrook, Elder Waltman, Elder Stoker, Elder Erickson, Elder Clouse, Elder Watson and Elder Flack eating Apple Crisp and Ice Cream. We rented 2 apartments in our building for them to stay in while they were waiting for their Russian visas.

Wednesday night we invited Zhanna over for dinner with the Elders. She was thrilled to have them there. They visited with her for some time to find out her knowledge of the gospel, when she was baptized and all sorts of things we didn't know. We had a testimony meeting with her that was wonderful. They all spoke in Russian and the Elders took their turn translating for us. She even made a sign for them that said "Elders, Welcome to Astana!" It was a wonderful evening!
These three Elders, Elder, Erickson, Elder Holbrook, and Elder Waltman, picked up their Kazakh visa extensions from Mira on Thursday morning and flew to Uralsk, which is a city in western Kazakhstan and just over the border from Russia, about three hours from Samara, Russia to get their Russian visas. The process worked so that means in 3 months, with the extended Kazakh visa that they have, they can now drive down to Uralsk and get their visas in 1 day!!

Some of the information was filled out incorrectly on the other 5 missionaries applications, so Mira spent Thursday afternoon with us and the Elders so we could get them done correctly and back to the Embassy.

Thursday evening we had the Elders and Zhanna over for dinner and then they gave her a lesson on how to share the gospel. It was great to see them teach her and the Spirit that was there was just amazing!

On Friday after dinner, the visas were delivered to our apartment and all the Elders cheered!! We are so grateful that we didn't have any problems. When they called President Bennett, their Mission President, we could all hear Sister Bennett cheer in the background, she was so excited! Getting their visas is a big deal, because they already have 12 missionaries from their mission stranded in Stockholm, Sweden and they have been their for 4 weeks because the Russian Embassy won't give them their Russian visas. The missionaries gave us a spiritual thought about missionary work and they all bore their testimonies to us before they left for the evening. What wonderful Elders they are and truly dedicated to the work!!

Saturday morning we left for the train station to pick up the Jones Family from Sharbakti, a little town outside of Pavlodar. It is about a 10 hour train ride. They are members and want to visit us once a month so they can attend Church.

Since the Elders had not been out all week (except to the store across the street from our apartment) and couldn't go because they didn't have their visas, we decided to go out on Saturday and walk the river. Nathan and Heather and the kids went with us, too.

It was a beautiful day and the wind wasn't too bad. We bought some things for the Elders that they couldn't get in Russia which they were thrilled about! And Heather also bought some things she couldn't get in Sharbakti; so it was pretty profitable!

On Saturday evening, after dinner, the Elders prepared a wonderful Family Home Evening which we all enjoyed! Desmond and Zoe especially loved the game that we all played!! Elder Dalley, Elder Clouse, Elder Stoker, Elder Flack and Elder Waltman with Desi and Zoe after Family Home Evening.
Elder Clouse, Elder Dalley, Elder Waltman, Elder Stoker, and Elder Flack flew to Moscow on Sunday morning. We will never forget these wonderful Elders! They bring such a special spirit with them!

It was wonderful having the Jones family with us and Zhanna for Church! We loved having them with us this weekend and hope that they will be with us each month. We are already planning Thanksgiving!! After dinner, we went for a walk along the river and through the park. Such a wonderful family! We love them so much!

Keep praying for the missionaries and especially for the leaders of these countries that they will soften their hearts toward missionary work. We love being a part of spreading the gospel hear in the East European Area! Thanks for all the prayers!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lack of Water But Not Paperwork in Astana, Kazakhstan - 19 October 2008

This week we had a lot of paperwork to catch up on with the past projects and the one that we just got approved for the Blind Society. We didn't get approval for the project for the Deseret Industries Training in Salt Lake, which we were really disappointed about, but we can see the wisdom in not spending a great deal of money on one person which is the underlying factor behind the Church's humanitarian efforts.

In the middle of trying to get our project paperwork caught up to date, the water was turned off every day! Fortunately, it was after we had our shower!! It was turned on again in the late afternoon but came on in a lovely shade of brown!! We were glad to have it every morning and evening but the rust has caused the hot water in the kitchen to stop working. So we have been doing dishes by packing hot water from the bathroom to the kitchen. Through the help of the neighbor, our translator and the cell phone, the repairman is coming on Monday to fix it. Yeah!!!
A couple of weeks ago we were asked to go to the Kazakh University of Humanities and Law and speak to the 2nd year English students.
This is a brand new campus for this university and just barely opened at the start of the school year.
The front was patterned after the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.
This is inside the front door of the university.
The halls are big and beautiful and wide. It is quite a beautiful university.

Mira, Anne and Aizhan, the teacher of the 2nd year English students. (Aizhan also helped us out as a translator for the American doctors during the NRT.) She has two groups of students, Russian speaking and Kazakh speaking. She wants us to come and speak each week in her classes. She would also like us to start a conversational English Club with them at the beginning of November. We are pretty excited about that!

These are the Russian speaking students who are in their 2nd year of English. They are wonderful young ladies who are eager to learn all about American style English, as opposed to British English! We love them already!

Here we are talking about holidays in America and comparing them with Kazakhstan holidays. We also told them a little about ourselves and let them ask questions about us. A couple of questions were political in nature and we had to say that we can not talk politics at all. We also had to sign a paper telling the Head of the Department that we would not talk about our Church unless asked and we would not teach doctrine or proselyte. This week we will be visiting both Kazakh and Russian classes. It should be fun!

On Saturday, we found out that we will be getting 8 more missionaries from the Russia Samara Mission for their visa renewals. They will be here on Tuesday and will be leaving on Friday, hopefully. The Samara missionaries have been going to Stockholm, Sweden. But today we found out from President Cranney that there are 13 missionaries that are still waiting for their visa renewals in Stockholm and it has been 3 weeks! Hopefully, we can get it done in a timely manner. We don't know what we would do with 8 missionaries for two weeks when they can't even proselyte here! Anyway, we love having missionaries come!

We just want to let you know that Clint and Megan had a baby girl, Adelaide Anne; born on Wednesday, the 15th of October. We were able to see her the day she was born and she is a beautiful little thing! Mother and baby are doing well. Congratulations to the Ricord family!

We love the gospel and are so grateful for the opportunity we have to serve here in Kazakhstan. It is a blessing in our lives. We love our Savior more each day because we know that this is His work and we are helping to further that work here in this part of the country. We are so grateful to be members this Church!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Closing Presentation in Osakaravka and Saying Goodbye in Kazakhstan - 12 October 2008

This has been such a busy and trying week, one of a lot of ups and downs but I guess that goes with life.
The first of the week we didn't do too much because Anne was trying to recover from a sinus infection. With lots of medication (that we brought from the States) and rest, she was feeling pretty good by Wednesday to resume our regular activities.
We went to an English class on Wednesday at a university here in Astana. The teacher wants us to set up a conversational English Club with her Kazakh group and her Russian group of English translators. We are pretty excited about it! We will let you know more about it next week.

Friday we took a trip to Osakaravka, a town (village) located about an hour and a half from here and southeast of Astana. We did a project there for a handicapped children's organization and we went for the closing presentation.
This young man has only one eye and is legally blind. He is demonstrating the exercise bike that the Church donated.
This lady works in the government office and she is helping this young man demonstrate how the massage machine works.
This young man is showing how well the treadmill works. There were also some hand held massage devices for use for the lower and upper back that were also donated by the Church.
Ludmilla is the NGO that we have been working with on this project. She is a wonderful lady and we have grown to love her. She is also trying out the massage machine and thinks it's great!!
This is the Director of Labor and Social Protection, Svetlana, who we also worked with on the project. All of the ladies were just wonderful that we met and they were so grateful for the equipment that was given for their youth.
After the presentation, Ludmilla wanted to take us, Mira and our taxi driver, to her cafe for a snack. She fixed us wonderful Russian dishes of rolled pancakes with sweetened cottage cheese inside, pastries with meat inside, and cabbage rolls which were all delicious!! Nuts, dried apricots, raisins and juice all accompanied the snack. And of course, we had to try everything!! It was wonderful!
On the way home from Osakaravka, Roy took these pictures of a Muslim cemetery.
In the cemetery, every family has their own fenced in area.
It was a beautiful day and a wonderful drive to see that part of the country!

With much sadness in our hearts, we had to say good-bye to the Wikle family who left Saturday night for the U.S. All the members of the church in Astana (Zhanna and us) went to see them off. Pictured are Zhanna, Robin and Gene and Anne, Samuel, Jacob and Caleb. (Roy is taking the picture, of course.)

These two "babushkas" (substitute "grandmothers") will miss little Samuel very much! We took turns holding him each week at church!

We will never forget the Wikles and all of the help they gave us in this strange and different place that we felt so foreign in. We literally could not have made it here in Kazakhstan without them!! We will never forget them and the wonderful members of the Church that they are!! We wish them well and much happiness in their new adventure!

We had a wonderful Church service today with just us and Zhanna! She's trying to learn English and we are trying to learn Russian and the Spirit is helping us!! We pray every day that we will be able to get missionaries in here soon. We continually pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of the leaders of some of these nations so that it can happen!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Closing Presentation in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan - 5 October 2008

Monday morning, we flew to Pavlodar, a city east and north of Astana and close to the Russian border, for the closing presentation of a project we did for a handicapped organization. Mira left Friday for Pavlodar to be with her family for a celebration during Ramadan, a Muslim celebration. Mira met us at the airport with Nadezhda, the Deputy Chairman of the organization, "Optomist". Nadezhada brought a bouquet of flowers for both of us and thanked us so much for coming. During the ride to her office, she was so emotional and grateful to us and wanted us to know how much they appreciated the help. When we got to the office we were introduced to her staff and of course, they fed us breakfast of sandwiches and salad and juice! On the left is Lena, Administrator, Nadezheda and Roy.

They took us to another building across town where the equipment, that was donated by the Church, was located. When we got out of the van, these two ladies were there to greet us with a plate of Russian rolls with salt in the center. Mira told us that this is a traditional Russian welcome and that we were to break off a roll and sprinkle it with salt and then taste it. The media was there and caught it all on tape!!

Nadezheda presented us with a plaque thanking us and our Church for the equipment for their handicapped organization. There were lots of people there and Roy was interviewed on camera about how we came to do a project here in Pavlodar and why we chose this organization. Roy explained that our Church helps organizations in over 160 nations and that we try to help as many people as we can.
This is a 3 in 1 Power Gym that we donated which helps with both upper and lower body strength.
Each of the men that demonstrated on the gym were all physically handicapped but very athletic.
This man is demonstrating the exercise bike which was also donated by the Church along with ski boots and bindings for amputees. This organization has social and athletic events monthly to keep them physically, socially, and mentally active and to help them feel a part of society.

After we checked in at the hotel, they invited us back to their office for dinner! These people in Kazakhstan eat more than Mormons!! It was a lovely dinner of fried chicken and puree (mashed potatoes), wonderful salads, cok (juice) and more! At the dinner, Nadezheda gave us some more gifts and thanked us again for all the help.
During the meal, the lady in white sang a special song that she had written about Pavlodar. It was so beautiful that she had Mira in tears and Nadezhda sang along with her. We felt very privileged to be there with this group of wonderful people. There were lots of hugs when we left. We hope to be able to see them again.

After taking us to the hotel, we went sight-seeing around Pavlodar. Here we are at the big park in the city that is next to the beautiful river. It was so cold and windy, we thought we were going to freeze!!
We also went inside this big, beautiful Russian Orthodox Church.
We were invited to Mira's home for dinner that evening. We had a lovely meal with manty, baursak, tomato salad mixed with homemade sour cream, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit and pickled tomatoes, and raisin filled tarts and fresh home-made raspberry jam!! It was so delicious and candy and chack-chack to top it all off. These are Mira's parents, Dametken and Asylek Mussabekova.

During our visit, Dametken presented us with two horses and a couple of trivets that were made by the teenagers from the handicapped orphanage, where she works. She also sent us home with homemade sour cream and raspberry jam, which we loved! They are very thoughtful and gracious people!

We flew back to Astana Tuesday morning and did some follow up on our projects the rest of the week. We hope to go to Osakaravka this week for a closing presention.

We enjoyed listening to conference, the Saturday morning session and hope to be able to listen to Sunday morning's session if I can get this blog done!! We hope you all enjoy conference, too.


Elder and Sister Welling